Arkansas judge blocks state from issuing birth certificates
Court News | 2017/12/06 01:12
An Arkansas judge on Friday blocked the state from issuing any birth certificates until officials are able to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the state's birth certificate law illegally favors heterosexual parents.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox on Friday set aside his orders requiring the state and three same-sex couples go into mediation on how to fix the state law to comply with the U.S. high court's order. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge earlier this week asked the state Supreme Court to stay or lift Fox's mediation order.

"This case has been pending for over two years and it has been more than six months since the United States Supreme Court ruled the Arkansas statutory scheme unconstitutional," Fox wrote in his order. "There are citizens and residents of the state of Arkansas whose constitutional rights are being violated on a daily basis."

Fox last month had threatened to halt the issuance of birth certificates if both sides couldn't find language by Jan. 5 to be stricken from the law. Rutledge told the court this week that both sides had agreed on an order on how to comply with the high court ruling, but Fox rejected it. A spokeswoman for Rutledge said the AG's office was reviewing Fox's order and did not have an immediate comment.

In his order, Fox said he was hopeful Gov. Asa Hutchinson would have the authority to fix the birth certificate law through executive action. If the state is unable to fix the law, Fox said, the injunction would be in effect until lawmakers could address the issue. Lawmakers are not scheduled to convene again until February for a session focused on the budget. Hutchinson could call a special session.

Prosecutors ask court to send Russia's ex-minister to prison
Court News | 2017/12/04 06:18
Russian prosecutors on Monday asked a court to send a former economic development minister to a high-security prison for 10 years.

Alexei Ulyukayev, the highest-ranking Russian official to have been arrested since 1993, was detained last year at the headquarters of Russia's largest oil producer, the state-owned Rosneft, after a sting operation by Russia's main intelligence agency. Ulyukayev denies the charges and says Rosneft's influential chief executive Igor Sechin has set him up.

The circumstances of the case have ignited speculation that Ulyukayev fell victim to a Kremlin power play by Sechin, a longtime associate of President Vladimir Putin.

A prosecutor on Monday in his remarks during cross-examination asked the court to find Ulyukayev guilty of extorting a $2 million bribe from Sechin and send him to a high-security prison for 10 years as well as fining him roughly $8.5 million.

Ulyukayev deserves such a harsh penalty because his actions "are undermining the authority of the government," the prosecutor told the court.

Prosecutors have said Ulyukayev was extorting a bribe from Sechin in return for giving the green light to Rosneft's purchase of another oil company.

Court: Congregation's display doesn't deserve tax exemption
Court News | 2017/11/30 20:19
A state appeals court says a Catholic congregation's stations of the cross display didn't qualify for a property tax exemption in 2014.

The St. Raphael's Congregation built the display in 2012 on the Madison property where the St. Raphael Cathedral once stood. The cathedral burned down in a 2005 fire.

The congregation sought a property tax exemption for tax year 2014, arguing state statutes at that time granted such exemptions on property necessary for locating church buildings.

A Madison judge denied the exemption. The 4th District Court of Appeals upheld that ruling Thursday, finding that a building must exist to trigger the exemption.

Legislators amended the statutes earlier this year to extend the exemption to property that churches intend to use for buildings to replace buildings destroyed by fire.

Court: Stress no grounds for rescinding guilty pleas
Court News | 2017/11/27 18:50
An appeals court in Chicago says a lower court in Indiana was right to refuse to permit a couple to rescind their guilty pleas in a tax case on grounds their prosecution caused them severe stress.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said stress was common to anyone facing prosecution and wasn't sufficient reason to take back pleas. It added that neither George nor Barbara Gasich could claim they were under some "Napoleonic delusions" when they chose to plead guilty.

The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin reports the Gasiches were indicted in 2014 for making fraudulent claims. Prosecutors said they'd asked for $475,000 in refunds when they owed the IRS far more than that.

The Gasiches were formerly from St. John, Indiana, but lived in Florida when they were arrested.

Belgian court pushes back extradition hearing for 5 Catalans
Court News | 2017/11/21 05:57
A court in Belgium on Friday pushed back the extradition arguments of ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four allies until at least Dec. 4, likely keeping the secessionist rebels in Belgium right through Catalonia's regional election campaign.

The court hearing in Brussels for the five Catalans is the latest step in their flight from Spain to Brussels and their refusal to return to face rebellion and sedition charges that could land them in jail for 25 years.

Before the court session, the prime ministers of Spain and Belgium discussed their bilateral relations, which have been strained over the case of the Catalan officials who are wanted on a Spanish arrest warrant.

Puigdemont lawyer Paul Bekaert said after the first court session Friday that "we will argue the case on Dec. 4." Whatever decision is made at that stage, two appeals will be possible and a final ruling could well only come only after the Dec. 21 election day in Catalonia.

Bekaert said even though the prosecutor asked for the execution of the extradition request from Spain for the five, the defense lawyers could still give written arguments until early next month.

German Court: Kuwait Airways Can Refuse Israeli Passengers
Court News | 2017/11/16 19:04
A German court ruled Thursday that Kuwait's national airline didn't have to transport an Israeli citizen because the carrier would face legal repercussions at home if it did.

The Frankfurt state court noted in its decision that Kuwait Airways is not allowed to have contracts with Israelis under Kuwaiti law because of the Middle Eastern country's boycott of Israel.

The court said it didn't evaluate whether "this law make sense," but that the airline risked repercussions that were "not reasonable" for violating it, such as fines or prison time for employees.

An Israeli citizen, who was identified in court papers as Adar M., a student living in Germany, sued Kuwait Airways after it canceled his booking for a flight from Frankfurt to Bangkok that included a stop-over in Kuwait City.

The cancellation came a few days before M.'s scheduled departure in August 2016 when he revealed he had an Israeli passport. The airline offered to book him on a nonstop flight to Bangkok with another carrier.

The man refused the offer and filed the lawsuit, seeking compensation for alleged discrimination. He also insisted the airline should have to accept him as a passenger.

The court rejected his discrimination claim ruling that German law covers discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion, but not nationality.

Germany's Central Council of Jews condemned the ruling, calling it "unbearable that a foreign company operating based on deeply anti-Semitic national laws is allowed to be active in Germany."

Frankfurt Mayor Uwe Becker expressed a similar view. "An airline that practices discrimination and anti-Semitism by refusing to fly Israeli passengers should not be allowed to takeoff or land in Frankfurt," Becker said.

High court to hear appeal in Newtown school shooting case
Court News | 2017/11/10 03:09
Lawyers are set to ask the Connecticut Supreme Court to reinstate a wrongful death lawsuit against the maker of the rifle used in the 2012 Newtown school massacre.

Justices are scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday in an appeal by a survivor and relatives of nine people killed in the shooting.

They're trying to sue Remington Arms, the North Carolina company that made the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle used to kill 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Gunman Adam Lanza's mother legally purchased the rifle.

A lower court judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying federal law shields gun makers from most lawsuits over criminal use of their products.

The company denies the lawsuit's allegations that it violated state law by selling such a dangerous weapon to the public.

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